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Balancing cropland gain and desert vegetation loss: The key to rural revitalization in Xinjiang, China

Weijia Chen, Yongquan Lu and Guilin Liu

Growth and Change, 2022, vol. 53, issue 3, 1122-1145

Abstract: In arid zones, ecological barriers can affect the agricultural development and sustainable development of oases. Therefore, balancing cropland and desert vegetation is the key to realizing ecological and rural revitalization. Then, we proposed a theoretical framework from the perspective of rural revitalization to analyze the key drivers that affect the balance of cropland and desert vegetation during 1990–2020. The results showed that cropland area in Xinjiang decreased by 881 km2 during 1990–1995, while it continually increased by 34,086 km2 during 1995–2020. However, grassland and woodland increased by 8,086 km2 during 2015–2020, indicating that the balance between cropland gain and desert vegetation loss began to improve. Most cropland expansions were reclaimed from woodland/grassland and unused land. During 1990–2005, changes between cropland and unused land in Xinjiang were mainly affected by gross domestic product (GDP). GDP and population most significantly affected the conversion (17,939 km2) of woodland/grassland to cropland during 1995–2015. Although population and economic growth led to an increase in cropland, the implementation of simultaneous and consistent policies on ecological conservation offset the reduction in desert vegetation. The findings can provide suggestions for smart cropland management and rural revitalization in Xinjiang, Central Asian countries and other countries with similar backgrounds worldwide.

Date: 2022
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